UMass plans to fail again with Super Bowl guest policy

By Zac Bears

Students at the March 2014 Blarney Blowout protest march to Whitmore Administration Building. (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
Students at the March 2014 Blarney Blowout protest march to Whitmore Administration Building. (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Many University of Massachusetts students discovered this weekend that from next Sunday, Feb. 1 at noon, to Monday, Feb. 2 at noon, security will allow no guests into the 52 on-campus dormitories and apartments that house over 12,700 undergraduates. This coincides with the New England Patriots sixth Super Bowl appearance in the last 15 years. University administrators’ plan will fail to prevent post-game chaos in the Southwest Residential Area.

Twitter lit up with complaints before noon on Saturday, Jan. 24, with one account declaring “Welcome to UMass Alcatraz” and another quoting that tweet and adding “JUST LET US RIOT.”

Entering my eighth and final semester, I have experienced celebratory chaos in the wake of the Patriots’ 2012 Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, the victory of the Red Sox in the 2013 World Series and of course several Blarney Blowouts, most notably in March 2014. Each time, the University failed to understand what prevents students from raucous, potentially dangerous celebration.

As students, media, residents and (one would hope) administrators are acutely aware, attempts at “riot” control by University administrators and town officials have failed spectacularly over the past ten years. Even after a relatively tame 2013 World Series celebration, at which students still trashed the Southwest Concourse, administrators did not attempt to create another “structured” celebration for the weekend of Blarney Blowout in Spring 2014. The result of this poor planning? Nearly 100 arrests, videos of police officers and students duking it out – students shirtless and cops in riot gear, strained Town-Gown relationships and worst of all, a national story.

Prohibition fails. The updated Super Bowl security procedure contains several flaws. Residence halls will close to guests about eight hours before the start of the game, and guests will be allowed into the building throughout the weekend, making it much harder to remove them if they get there before noon. Guests staying for the weekend will have ample time to plan around security restrictions. And the expected flood of raucous students into Southwest will not ebb because it excludes a couple thousand off-campus guests. When the Patriots lost in 2012, I lived in Van Meter at the peak of the Central Residential Area. Hundreds of residents, most of who I had never heard talk about football before, began bolting down the stairs after New England lost, ready to take advantage of the chaos to have a little fun.

Administrators have yet to announce alternative programming, perhaps several Super Bowl watch parties scattered around campus, which is not to say that they won’t. But the opening volley in managing student behavior on Super Bowl Sunday was not one of cooperation, but restriction. More draconian residence hall policy will only agitate students involved, now looking not only for a little fun but also to show displeasure at administrative decisions to limit students’ power and rights.

I wasn’t one of the kids running down Orchard Hill to join the chaos three years ago, and I won’t be next Sunday. But year after year, and bad decision after bad decision, I’m starting to understand those who join the crowd.

Zac Bears is the Opinion & Editorial Editor and can be reached at [email protected].